Last year, Diana Somerville travelled almost 16,500 kilometres around Australia on a preparatory tour for the first ever national Australia Post Regional Pitchfest. The concept arose after Di saw a lack of opportunities for regional people and their great ideas. The first Regional Pitchfest was held in Wagga in June 2016 and with full support from Australia Post, her bright idea went national.
Born and bred in Wagga, Di initially wanted to be a firefighter, but an Australian Defence Force Academy scholarship saw Di change course for the Navy, where she quickly rose through the ranks and drove warships for a living. As there is no ocean around Wagga, Di thought she would never return. Things quickly changed on a visit home when she bumped into Dane, a boy she had known since pre-school. Now 11 years later, Di is married to Dane and living on their sheep and cropping property at Collingullie, just 24 kilometres from Wagga, with their two children.
A 10 year drought quickly destroyed any romantic notion that Di had of being a farmer’s wife. She had to find a job and soon found herself struggling to come to terms with her professional identity. In particular, how to transfer the significant skills and abilities gained from her time in uniform into a civilian life. Lack of promotional opportunity locally within the public sector made Di look elsewhere and when presented with the idea that people needed help putting tenders together she thought she’d “give it a crack”.
As the saying goes opportunity breeds success, and after tapping into a start-up network in Wagga established by another entrepreneur Simone Elyes, of 365cups app fame, Di quickly saw how geography does not have to be a career barrier. It was also a key driver for her Regional Pitchfest vision to give people in regional areas the vehicle and confidence to bring their burning ideas to life. “Regional people are inherently innovative, they have to be!” Di said. “That is why our regions are full of such amazing ideas. It’s about time that we not only heard them, but also celebrated them.”
Readers also enjoyed our story Caitlin’s Cocom.